Thursday, June 6, 2024

Anne Burton Sykes's Dress Diary


I've been reading several fashion/textile history books lately, the most recent being Kate Strasdin's The Dress Diary: Secrets from a Victorian Woman's Wardrobe (American Title.) 
Different marketing strategies in the English cover and the American on the right

The diary of sewing scraps does reveal secrets---the author had much success in finding out who the anonymous collector was---Strasdin's occupation during the Covid Lockdown.

The pink silk covered ledger---an album or scrapbook was a gift
from Adam Sykes to his bride Anne Burton in 1838. Over the years Anne added 2,184 swatches of
material from her clothing and that of her friends and family.

Her sister-in-law Jane Sykes who'd married her husband's brother William in 1833 is the donor of this piece of her "celebrated blue dress." The dress diary's owner Kate Strasdin could find out much about Anne's families and friends through online genealogy information and museum work but could only speculate as to why such a dress might be "celebrated."

Friend Hannah's (Anna) contributions in 1845

There are many reasons to enjoy this book. The detective work is fun to observe as a skillful historian puts the puzzle pieces together and gives us a view of Anne's life in England and stints in the fabric business in Singapore and Shanghai. The color pages are a delight for fans of fabric prints. And the author is quite skillful at using the scrapbook to give us a basic overview of textile history from Perkin's mauvine and true poison green dyed with arsenic to her observations on how younger women wore cotton and older silk.

A stripe at bottom left mostly buff with a little blue

The swatches---we wish we had all 2,000 to view--- are also useful in corroborating dates for quilts---in fact Strasdin compares the book to an uncontructed friendship quilt made from gifts donated by friends who knew of Anne's hobby.

A blue and buff striped dress from Tasha Tudor's collection.

Jane Sykes's celebrated 1846 dress was made from innovative dye processes
that became quite the fashion in the mid-1840s. Her stripe alternates Prussian blue
mineral color with a duller relative called Buff at the time, a popular combination with dye masters and the customers.

Blue & Buff stripe in a block dated 1846
From Laurette Carroll's block collection

Edyta Sitar's collection

Anne's own purchases in Singapore, where apparently
one could find fabric similar to the mode in London and Boston.
The center swatch is another example of the fashion for rainbow or fondue patterning.

A fancier piece of rainbow colors shifting from blue to green
in a quilt top.

Mercy Taylor and her rather dramatic fabric choices in the mid 1840s.
Although Anne lived in Singapore during the innovative 1840s friends
from England sent their contributions.

Nothing seemed too bold!
That brown MAY have been purple at one time---
or it could have always been the fashionable buff.

Anne's dress diary is also valuable because we get insight into the professional printers in her husband's and her own family. Brother-in-law William Sykes was a calico printer for the Hargreaves & Dugdale mill, which maintained the quite successful Broad Oak printworks. 

Anne grew up in Burton House the large house on the right
in Tyldesley.

Her father James Burton owned four cotton mills in Tyldesley. And Adam Sykes spent his working life in the fabric business.

Print styles familiar to quilt collectors

Anna & Adam retired to Clitheroe, Lancashire near the mills.  
She saved a scrap when she furnished her house there. The top print shows how
fashion had changed in the 1860s, a rather conservative and
classic rose print she chose for drapery.

1 comment:

  1. I read The Dress Diary earlier this and enjoyed it tremendously.